What a wonderful weekend! There’s little I like more than being surrounded by my friends and family. When you add good food and cute babies, well, I think that’s heaven. So this weekend I had all of that. The Hippo came to visit and we spent Saturday with one of my oldest and dearest friends and her family. My mom came along to visit as well and we sat in the family room, watching all of the babies play. We snacked on homemade cornbread (someday I’ll give you this recipe along with a pretty good story) with strawberry jam, fruit, cheese, crackers…yum. The baby had her first strawberry which she decimated, despite being toothless and the adults drank wine and laughed. It was a weekend that left me full in all senses of the word- physically, emotionally, mentally– but all in that warm, comforting way.
Saturday night we had steak, sweet potatos, green beans, artichokes- a veritable feast! The steak was in honor of the Hippo- if you read along on her blog, you know her husband doesn’t eat it, whereas my husband would eat it every day forever if allowed. No photos or recipes from that one- really simple and straightforward. We roasted the sweet potatos, steamed the green beans and artichokes and used a grill pan for the steak (which I marinated in a little soy sauce, Montreal steak seasoning and olive oil). All very basic cooking and nothing that exciting about which to blog. But Sunday…oh, Sunday….
We spent the day Sunday cooking up a storm. Molasses cookies, fresh bread, chicken meatballs and Italian wedding soup. I’ll have all the recipes for you in the next few posts but today I’m going to start with the bread. Wonderful, homemade, fresh, yeasty bread. Think you don’t have time to make bread? Yes, you do. Think it’s too much hard work, all that kneading? Nope, it’s not.
Perhaps you’ve heard of the No-Knead Bread that swept the internet a few years ago. (There’s a link here.) That version is fantastic and so easy but takes 12 hours to rise plus prep time and second rise- it’s a low yeast, high rise time ratio. So, more recently it was updated to shorten the rise time- more yeast added and only 4 hours rising time (plus about another hour of prep and second rise combined). That’s an afternoon. Throw the dough together at breakfast and when you come back after lunch, you can bake it up. Or throw it together at lunch and bake it off for dinner. Brilliant. There are whole wheat versions but I haven’t tried those. I’ve alluded to this recipe before (here) but didn’t share it with you. Now I will.
Quick-er No Knead Bread
3 cups white flour
1 packet yeast (this is 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons white sugar
1 1/2 cups water (lukewarm, not too hot)
In a bowl, combine the flour, yeast, salt, sugar and water. Mix together by hand until you have a sort of shaggy dough. It will not look pretty.
Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit in a warmish place (i.e. NOT the fridge or outside) for 4 hours. It will expand and get sort of bubbly on the surface. It will also be quite sticky. After four hours, lightly flour a clean surface (I use a plastic cutting board) and dump the dough out onto it. Sort of fold the dough in on itself a few times, adding just a sprinkle or two of flour (don’t be heavy handed or your bread will be too dense, I really do mean just a sprinkle). Don’t knead it but shape it into a ball.
Cover with parchment paper (or a towel) and let it rest (again in a warmish place) for about 30 minutes.
With the pot and lid in the oven, heat the oven to 450 degrees for about a half an hour (see how it’s just as long as the bread needs to rise again? Clever, no?).
After the 30 minutes, carefully take the pot out of the oven and sort of dump the bread into it. Shake it around for a second to distribute it but don’t get too worried- it’ll spread as it bakes. Put the lid back on and put it back in the oven for about 20-30 minutes. (I have a terribly uneven oven so I check mine every fifteen minutes or so). It will be done when it’s a nice toasty color on top and makes a hollow sound if you tap it on the bottom (the bread, not the pot).
It’s important to let it cool before you slice it both because it is so hot and because it will be sort of squishy right out of the oven and won’t slice well. Oh, but when it’s ready? Mmmmmmmm. NOTHING like fresh bread. Nothing!